11 August: The Kara Sea
Tossing. Again. A great part of the expedition locked themselves up in their cabins. Tossing in the Kara Sea is about 7 on the Beauford scale. The first report session is postponed because the majority of the expedition members feel unwell. Today the waves are more active than passengers of the RV Professor Molchanov, so the only hero of the diary today is our «favorite» Kara Sea.
This sea is very low. The mean depth is about 100 m. The maximum depth is about 600 m. The salinity of the Kara Sea varies a lot due to the river flow of the Ob and the Yenisei rivers. The Yenisei River is the most full-flowing river in Russia. Its width is up to 50 km.
The Kara Sea unlikely to the Western seas of Russian Arctic is covered by ice almost the whole year round. Ice formation starts in September and the ice cover breaks up on the sea in the last decade of July. The sea opens fully only at the end of August. Moreover the Kara Sea is famous for its shore ice territory which is the biggest in Russia. Shore ice is formed due to the frost penetration in the coastal part of the sea and it is some kind of shore extension. That is why the Dutch sailor N. Vitsen called this sea Ledyanoe (Icy) and the French J. Kampredon — Ledovitoe (Glacial).
The flora and fauna of the Kara Sea is not very rich but it exists. In the Kara Sea the following fishes are valued: arctic cisco, whitefish, vendace, smelt, navaga, pollack and siberian white salmon. People go fishing only in bays and river mouths. Big animals such as ringed seals, bearded seals and walruses are also spotted here. In summer white whales come to the Kara Sea. Several members of the expedition were lucky to see them during the landing in the port of Dikson. While two modest white whales were travelling not far from the boat we could observe their white smooth backs emerging from the water.
V.M. Selifontov was the first polar explorer who mapped the name «Kara Sea» during the Great Northern Expedition in 1736. No one knows when the first expeditions through the Kara Sea took place. However the letter to the tsar sent in 1601 by Tobolsk voivodes M.M. Godunov and I.F. Volkonski describes the route trough the Yugorski Shar Strait to the Eastern part of the Yamal Peninsula, along the Mutnaya River to the watershed with the Seyakha River, then on land, and after that they travelled downstream to the Obskaya Bay, to the South along the Ob river and to the East in the Yenisei basin.
The Kara Sea is considered to be the most difficult for sailing among all seas of the Russian Arctic. What are the challenges? A great number of sandbanks, almost year-round ice cover, early freezing of river mouths, lack of secured anchorage places, poorly explored sea currents, a lot of cloudy days that rule out the possibility of visual observations.
During the expedition the Kara Sea was not only ruling over our lives it also inspired to write some poems.
Кто летит на крыльях пены
И глядит глазами чаек?
И вздыхает, и о чем-то
И, кораблик, поднимая,
К горизонту по ступеням,
Провожает и встречает,
И в закате не горит?
Море Карское похоже
На хтонического зверя.
На его соленой коже
Серебрится синий лед.
Ходят волны. Ну, и что же?
Путь до гавани отмерен,
И «Профессор» наш, быть может,
С ними к острову придет.
Ivan Saveliev, Head of the Chair of International Law, looking at waves beating the board of our vessel, thought of a legend. According to this legend the name Karina comes from the Kara Sea. The first Karina was born in 30’s during the expedition in the Kara Sea.